Then Came Bronson is an American adventure/drama television series starring Michael Parks that aired on NBC from 1969 to 1970, and was produced by MGM Television. The series, created by Denne Bart Petitclerc, began with a movie pilot on Monday, March 24, 1969. The series was approved for one year and began its first run on September 17, 1969. The pilot was also released in Europe as a feature film.
The series features Parks as the protagonist Jim Bronson, a newspaperman who becomes disillusioned after the suicide of his best friend Nick (Martin Sheen) and, after a heated argument with his editor, “working for the man.”
In order to renew his soul, Bronson becomes a vagabond searching for the meaning of life and seeking the experiences life has to offer (as revealed in the series pilot). During his travels, he shares his values with the people he meets along the way and lends a helping hand when he can. Bronson rides a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle and, as such, was viewed by some as a modern version of the solitary cowboy wandering the American west. The motorcycle had previously been sold to Nick by Bronson. After it is left at the suicide scene by his friend, Bronson buys it back from the widow.
Curiously, though the opening promises a journey of self-discovery, the premise of each episode is that Bronson enters someone else’s life at a crucial point and acts as a catalyst for change. When Bronson encounters an Amish community, for example, a local boy becomes enraptured by the outside world and steals Bronson’s motorcycle to run off to Reno, Nevada. In another episode, located in Reno, Nevada, Bronson meets his cousin Eve on her wedding day and lends her money for the wedding service, but she runs off to the casinos and blows it.
The first three episodes, including the end credits scenes, were shot in and around Jackson, Wyoming. The premier pilot movie was also shown at the town’s then only theatre to give the locals a sense of what the series was about since they were shooting in town and at local area popular spots.
Bronson is committed to pacifism and often redirects an antagonist’s anger into self-examination. Always, like a true catalyst, he rolls out of every episode unchanged.
The show was sometimes accused of being a knock-off of the movie Easy Rider, but it actually preceded the release of that movie.